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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am interested in cruising the Great Lakes in the future. I just stared sailing last year. I have a Catalina 22 I sail on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin. I would probably sail mostly Lake Michigan. What would be a good length boat for those waters? I have alot to learn and am looking for any input I can get. I have never sailed that lake and dont know what to expect. Thanks

Bill B.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I sailed on Lake Ontario for a few years on a Hughes 22 (also called a Northstar 22) and had a lot of fun with it. In fact, was able to gunkhole into some places not accessible in a deeper boat

Sailing on the Great Lakes is not so much a function of the boat as it is of the skipper. Be careful about making sure that the boat is working properly and be conservative about your abilities and the weather and you should be fine.
 

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Bill B,
I have cruised Lake Michigan for many years and have found her to range from serene to quite scary. One must always respect the lake. Your 22 should be just fine but you have to be careful. To cruise you should have roller furling, 2 or 3 reefs for the main, autopilot, 2 bruce anchors, 2 anchor rodes (175'' to 200'' each), charts, gps, long shaft outboard, inflatable vest with harness, and more. You will be caught in thunderstorms with 35 mph winds and 6 to 8 foot waves but they are usually short in duration. The weather service is: very poor in predicting wind velocity, wind direction, and wave height; fair at predicting thunderstorms; pretty good at predicting major storms; very good at predicting severe weather ( never, ever leave shelter even if they say there is a chance of severe weather as the waves on the lake will be 20 to 30 feet and you will not be able to see very good and will have a hard time breathing as there is so much water in the air). I have cruised the lake in the following boats: Alberg 30, Ericson 39, Frers 38, Lightning Class 19 footer. I now cruise between 30 and 50 days each summer on a Freedom 21. The winds are often light and often fairly heavy. Thunderstorms are a possibility almost every day. Severe weather is a possibility maybe 5 times a summer and while I have holed up quite a few times I have only had a severe storm hit me twice while at anchor and never while on the lake. Always drop your sails before you get hit with a thunderstorm. Never get caught out in a storm with winds over 35 as a 45 mph wind is absolutely much much worse than a 35. I love adventure and therefore have experienced much on the lake. For example I found out that my Freedom 21 is totally out of control with the spinnaker up in 35 knot winds and that when it gets knocked down under these conditions water pours into the cockpit, things break and the spinnaker halyard must be cut. An 11 pound Bruce anchor will hold my Freedom 21 in Round Lake (Charlevoix) in 50 feet of water with 200 feet out in a 35 knot breeze. Cruising is MUCH more fun easy beating, reaching and running and no fun tacking to windward. Give yourself a 3 day window to cross the lake ( if the weather is great today but you don''t have to get back for 3 days you better cross today as you may not get another chance). There are very very few boats which actually cross Lake Michigan as the vast majority of sailors do not like to lose sight of land. I guess I could go on and on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Fran: Thanks for the many pointers. The topic of thunder storms reminds me of the subject of lightning. What precautions have you taken againt being struck. The other thing I was wondering about is why you are sailing a smaller boat now. Thanks again.

Bill
 

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Bill,
I was not the owner of the larger boats. I owned the Lightning and cruised across the lake with it but was scared alot as it is an open boat ( easily fills up with water from waves on a beat) and is easily rolled over. So the Freedom 21 is a big move up as it has a fixed keel, very large rudder and an enclosed cabin.
I take absolutely no precautions against lightning except that the mast is grounded to the keel. I have always remained in the cockpit during thunderstorms for over 30 years and have gone through hundreds of lightning storms. I may be nuts but I have never heard of anyone being struck by lightning on a sailboat. Personally I believe that it will hit the mast and not me. On the other hand every sailboat I have ever sailed on has had the top of the mast hit which usually blows the instruments completely away. I think it is silly to buy wind instruments for cruising unless you can afford to replace them. Lightning is not a real concern. Even strong storms are not really to dangerous if you have sea room and they don''t last to long. The most dangerous thing is fatique. Fran
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Fran:
Thanks again. I am not sure my c22 is grounded. I would guess that it is not but I think it is a good idea. I have been caught in a few storms. I usually drop the sails and throw in the anchor and wait it out in the cabin. If there is no lighting I might motor in but prefer the first option.

Would you prefer a larger boat? I would especially in regards to living quarters. My c22 seems very sea worthy for Winnebago.
Do you think a boat in the 30ft area would be more sea worthy on Michigan or doesnt it really matter?

Bill
 

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Bill,
Yes, I would prefer a larger boat as my wife sails with me now and can help run the boat. Also, a larger boat has more room down below, is drier, and if it has an inboard engine can power quite well into the waves whereas an outboard can''t. There are many positive reasons why a larger boat is better.
The reason I have a small boat is: expense; I often sail for 2 hours and a small boat is faster out of and into a slip; a small boat is easier to singlehand and I can fly the chute by myself. No boat is perfect and they all involve compromises. When I retire we will probably get a used NonSuch 30 or maybe a Freedom 28.
I don''t know what you mean by "sea worthy" so you will have to tell me. My Freedom 21 is built much stronger than a Catalina 22 and even some 30 footers so it can withstand more extreme forces but if you sail conservatively it makes no difference. When you push boats like I do it is nice to have a really strong boat. This is approximate but 15 to 20 winds create 6 foot waves; 25 winds create 8 feet; 30 winds create 10 feet; 35 winds 12 feet; 45 to 50 winds 20 foot waves so you will sailing in 6 foot waves alot. These waves are considered steep. I think a 30 footer is definately more comfortable on the Lake and a 40 footer even more so but size has propblems too. I have seen alot of Catalina 22''s cruising.
You will not be able to anchor and go below in a thunderstorm. In a 22 you would have to stay in the cockpit to steer. In a 30 footer you could put it on autopilot and go below but then you would not be able to avoid any possible collisions. I am scared in thunderstorms because there is so much water in the air I cannot see and worry about
collisions. I also hate fog because I cannot see. You also must have a depthsounder for navigation. Practice with your gps and remmember that 45 degrees 15 minutes 30 seconds is 45 degrees 15.5 minutes on a gps as the last digits on a gps are fractions of 100 and not 60.
How old are you? I am 53. How many days in a row would you have to cruise? I go for 12 days at a time 4 times a summer. Are you looking for adventure? Maybe some danger?
Simply peace and quiet? To just get away? I enjoy all of the above.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Bill, I just moved back from an O-day 28 to a 24 ft. trailerable just so I could someday drag it to the Great Lakes to do like you are, and I have to agree with Fran on the pluses of a smaller boat. Have you considered keeping the C-22 and chartering a bigger boat for those few trips to the lake? My friends who cruise the coasts every year say it is better to keep the smallest boat you can stand to use most of the year on our lake, and charter that nice big boat when you go to Maine, G.L., or Fla.

I saw Lake Michigan last year for the first time, and want to come back to sail, so thanks, Fran for the good info. All my experience is on a small lake.

Skip
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hi Fran
I am 52. Mostly go to get away and enjoy the beauty nature offers out there. I like how each time we go out conditions are always seem a little different. I have to admit I do enjoy some of the rough weather too. Right now I cant get away too long. Job and kids tie us down quite abit. When things lighten up (when the kids are on there own which may be only 3-5 yrs) I would like to go on 2-3day cruises many times a season. last summer we often went out 4 time a week and sometimes more. Usually 2-3 nights after work. Sometimes we sail at night. And often Saturday and Sunday both. Depending on our schedules I will go out 2-8hrs. Retirement years I would like to sail a week at a time. That why I am interested in Lake Michigan. I am not sure I have the savvy you do to sail the bigger waters but I sure am considering it when I get more experience and knowledge.

THis may be a dumb question. You said I could not anchor in a storm. Is that because of water depth and or wave heigth?
Do you reef the main and try to sail in a c22? I ask that because you mentioned I would have to steer the boat.

Where do you sail out of? Speaking of GPS. I dont have one and may not need one on Winnebago but would like to get one. Any advise is appeciated.

Bill
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Hi Skip
Thats a good idea. I do hate to part with this boat but onthe other hand would like something bigger down below. Thanks

Bill
 

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Bill,
I sail out of Escanaba, Michigan which is at the N.W. corner of Lake Michigan. I sail about 90 days each summer many times for only 2 hours. 40 to 50 days is spent cruising. Our waves here are usually 3 to 6 feet. My boat has no jib just a large main with 3 reefs and a spinnaker. I can reef and raise and lower the spinnaker singlehanded from the cockpit in winds to 25.
Offshore the lake is over 600 feet deep which would make anchoring pretty hard. In our little bay it is 100 feet deep. As far as I am concerned one must drop all sails in a thunderstorm because you really don''t know how heavy the wind will be. I try to drop 5 minutes early and then start the outboard and power into it. I don''t reccommend reefing and sailing through a thunderstorm. I have to steer because I have just enough outboard power (5hp 4 stroke) to keep me pointed into the wind. The wind would overpower my autopilot. I don''t know how a C 22 sails with just the main, full or reefed--=some boats are terrible, some are ok, and of course catboats like my Freedom 21 are great.
GPS and charts are a neccessity on the Lake as is a depthsounder and vhf radio so you can get weather reports. I am partial to Garmin and own a model 45 and 48 handhelds which I think are the way to go. I think all GPS''s are probably pretty good today. I would go for a waterproof one. Fran
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I am thinking of cruising on Lake Superior this summer. I Have a 32 Beneteau. Has anyone cruised this lake via Sault Ste Marie and Lake Huron? I am familiar with the lake''s reputation having previously canoed it, but I am a relatively new sailor.
Thanks,
John
 

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Hi Captains: I have had a Catalina 22 (Winter Dream) 1988 wing keel model since she was new. The boat is docked in a municipal marina in Columbus, OH most of the time.
The boat is set up for the cruise and booze lifestyle with a 6 HP long shaft, roller furling with a 150, knot log, depth, compass,fixed VHF with masthead antenae, and a West Marine Loran C. My wife and I have trailered the boat to Lake Ontario and sailed from Youngstown, NY to Totonto (35 miles and you can see the CN Tower going over but not coming back) during the C-22 Nationals in 91 0r 92. We have then taken her to Northern Lake Michigan about 7 times and sailed in the area including Gladstone, Escanaba, Fayette, and Rock and Washington Islands. This is a beautiful cruising area with most of the passages in the 20-23 nm range. Most of the time our cruising has been for 4-6 days and roughly 100 miles.
The 22 is a real joy to sail. She will handle anything. Its the crew that has the problem. Only once did I feel threatened and that was trying to beat around the shoal between the two Bays du Noc going from Fayette to Escanaba. I clipped on and told Bonnie to go below. The 22 made it and we knew we could count on her even if we were basket cases. My wife (all 5''1" of her) loves to sail the boat on these 4-11 hour passages. She especially likes to be on a run with 4'' rollers coming up from behind and sail everyone of them. There is nothing like a small boat with a tiller to "feel" the voyage.

We have not sailed in lower Green Bay only because we put in at Washington Island where we also have a summer cottage. I am sure the area from Green Bay up the Door County shore would be equally fun but considerably more crowded. We have made the passages up north without seeing another boat several times.

Bottom line - the C-22 is a great little cruiser for Green Bay. it can get a little crowded for living aboard for more than a few days. There are some nice dockages to stretch the legs, get a shower and catch a great meal either aboard or at a local restaurant. The cruising folks we have met North of the tension line are just great. One comment we get from many of the folks in the larger boats is their memories of sailing the small cruiser and how much fun it was. Go for it. You''ll love it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
We sail the east end of Lake Ontairo probably the most unpredictable places on the great lakes, ( Bay of Dead Ships ) . With a good boat and a little good common sense its been a great time . Have been to most points on the lake possible and have come to the conclution that the ocean is safer . But this is where i live and im going to keep goin till its time to head to the big blue , have fun with it . We sail a Cape Dory 25 and so far have not gotten to the point where it the boat won''t handle it. Knock On Teak . If you do the great lakes cruse stop in Oswego at the end of July for Harbor Fest , You wont be disapointed !
Brace
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I sail on Lake Superior, 32'' sailboat, we
put on over 2,000 miles last year, and do
about that for the last 5 years, great sailing but you have to be ready for anything at any time, if you have questions
ask away.
Scott
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
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Bill, I sail lake Superior and have sailed 23' to 56' boats on this lake (I imagine Michigam is similar but probably choppier (shallower water - superior gets > 1000 ft). That said, You would most likely be best off with a "Pocket Cruiser" something around 30' (Tartan made a great boat back in th '70's and if kept in good condition can be picked up cheap - stay away from the 27'). Another very good, very fast performance "older" boat is Ericsson (30' and above)Good luck!!


QUOTE=billscat;1534]I am interested in cruising the Great Lakes in the future. I just stared sailing last year. I have a Catalina 22 I sail on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin. I would probably sail mostly Lake Michigan. What would be a good length boat for those waters? I have alot to learn and am looking for any input I can get. I have never sailed that lake and dont know what to expect. Thanks

Bill B.[/QUOTE]
 

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Thank you.

Your answers read like a narrative, i could picture myself in the situations you described. informative and a pleasure to read.

e
 

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It depends on the boat, my Bristol 24 handles heavy weather better than my Sabre 28 or O'day 28 ( prior boats). I am trading up to a larger boat only for the creature comforts. We hail out of Rochester NY on Lake Ontario; either going with a Bristol 35.5 or a Sabre 36
 

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Rule #1 to handling the great lakes, they are freshwater oceans and should be treated as such. Though they seem to get cranky far more often.

There is an Erickson 25 for sale near here that I would love to take out on the great lakes. I've been told they're all built like tanks and the heavy ballasted keel with the extra swing keel would be nice for shallows.

If you are poor like me and can't afford anything big enough to have an inboard I would suggest a ton of extra fuel and the biggest outboard in the weight class (anything up to 15 hp weighs about the same) I have a 15 hp that is electric start and have parts to change from long to short shaft and back in less than an hour, it also happens to be perfectly disguised as a 9.9 ( the hood and even the rivited ID plate is correct) It takes less gas to run a 15 hp at part throttle than it does to run an 8 hp at full throttle and the backup +1/3 hp might save your butt.
 
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